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HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 1663        FILED ON: 1/20/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1278


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



Ruth B. Balser


To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act relative to the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons.






Ruth B. Balser

12th Middlesex

Kay Khan

11th Middlesex

Frank I. Smizik

15th Norfolk

Steven A. Tolman


Ellen Story

3rd Hampshire

James B. Eldridge


Thomas M. Stanley

9th Middlesex

Jennifer L. Flanagan


Byron Rushing

9th Suffolk

Elizabeth A. Malia

11th Suffolk

Tom Sannicandro

7th Middlesex

HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 1663        FILED ON: 1/20/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1278

By Ms. Balser of Newton, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 1278) of Ruth B. Balser and others relative to the identification and treatment of the mentally ill in prisons.  The Judiciary. 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



In the Year Two Thousand Eleven



An Act relative to the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons.


              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

              SECTION 1. Section 1 of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2006 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of “Commissioner” the following definition: -

              “Mental health professional,” a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker (LICSW) or licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) who is licensed to practice in the commonwealth pursuant to chapter one hundred and twelve. 

              SECTION 2. Said section 1 of said chapter 127, as so appearing , is hereby further amended by inserting  after the definition of “Parole board” the following definition: -

              “Residential treatment unit,” a therapeutic housing unit within a correctional facility that is operated by the department and ??? for the purpose of providing treatment and rehabilitation for prisoners.

              SECTION 3. Section 39 of said chapter 127, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-

              Except as provided in section 39A of this chapter, at the request of the superintendent of any correctional institution of the commonwealth, the commissioner may authorize the transfer, for such period as s/he may determine, to a segregated unit within any correctional institution of the commonwealth, of any inmate whose continued retention in the general institution population is detrimental to the program of the institution.

              SECTION 4. Said chapter 127, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after section 39 the following section:-

              Section 39A. Diversion to residential treatment units

              (a) When an inmate is confined to a segregated unit, the superintendent shall arrange for a mental health professional to assess the mental health of the inmate and to review the inmate’s mental health record within twenty-four hours.  Inmates remaining in such confinement shall be reassessed at a minimum of every three days thereafter.  Mental health assessments shall be conducted in a confidential manner. 

              (b) As part of all mental health assessments conducted pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, mental health professionals shall identify for diversion or removal from such segregated unit any inmate who meets the criteria set forth in paragraph (c) of this section.  Inmates identified for diversion or removal from a segregated unit shall, within seventy-two hours of the assessment, be diverted or removed from such unit and placed in a residential treatment unit or provided with clinically appropriate treatment in general population.  While awaiting transfer, the mental health status of such inmates shall be closely monitored.

              (c) Inmates who have been designated for transfer to a segregated unit as provided in section 39 of this chapter and who meet at least one of the following criteria shall be diverted or removed from segregation as provided in paragraph (b) of this section.  These criteria are:

              (1) Inmates who are diagnosed with, are currently under treatment for, or currently display symptoms of one or more of the following disorders described in the most recent edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders:

              A. schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders,

              B. major depressive disorders, current or recurrent,

              C. bipolar disorders, all types,

              D. cognitive disorders, specifically delirium, dementia and amnesiac disorder,

              E. personality or anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, that result in significant functional impairment or significant or chronic self-injury;

              (2) inmates diagnosed with developmental disabilities;

              (3) inmates diagnosed with traumatic brain injury;

              (4) inmates determined to be at risk of suicide in segregation, including inmates who have engaged in behavior that evidences serious suicidal risk including self-mutilation; or

              (5) inmates who have otherwise substantially deteriorated mentally or emotionally while confined in segregation where diversion or removal is deemed to be clinically appropriate by a mental health professional.

              SECTION 5.  Said chapter 127, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after section 17 the following section:-

              Section 17A. Establishment of mental health treatment programs inside correctional facilities   

              (a) The commissioner, in cooperation with the commissioner of mental

              health, shall establish in correctional facilities such programs, including but not limited to residential treatment units, as are necessary for the treatment of mentally ill inmates confined therein who are in need of psychiatric services but who do not require hospitalization for the treatment of mental illness, as determined by identification by a mental health professional and referenced in Section 3.  Such inmates shall receive therapy and programming in settings that are appropriate to their clinical needs while maintaining the safety and security of the facility.  The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections shall establish the appropriate number of residential treatment units (RTUs), in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health.

              (b) All correctional staff who work in residential treatment units shall be screened and shall receive at a minimum forty hours of mental health training, plus twelve hours of annual training.  In addition to the training requirement provided in this paragraph, all other correctional officers employed by the department shall be given eight hours of annual mental health training.  Such training shall include information about the types and symptoms of mental illnesses, the goals of mental health treatment, medication and side effects, co-occurring disorders, de-escalation techniques and training in how to effectively and safely manage inmates with mental illness.

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